Exploring the Holy City
It was early in the morning when I stepped out of The Charleston Place, turned left and began to make my way down King Street. If I’d turned right, I could’ve walked past blocks and blocks of buzzy shops, hotels and eateries. Instead, I headed toward the Battery and walked through quiet neighborhoods and cobblestone streets. It was a sunny day and there was a sweetness in the air from yellow bursts of Carolina jessamine, the city’s signature flower. Every detail contributed a general sense of history and charm: the elegant Georgian houses, the moss covered brick, the sweeping verandas, the secret gardens tucked away in alleyways.
The History of the Holy City
Charleston was founded in 1670, and the city’s layers of history can be seen at every turn– by historic, stately architecture, or by the interesting plaques marking centuries of notable events.
The town is known as the Holy City, although there are disagreeing opinions as to why. Some say the city’s diverse and tolerant religious history is the source of the nickname. No doubt a contributing factor is the number of churches and chapels that dot the city. If you ever find yourself enjoying a little live music or a cocktail at a good rooftop restaurant or bar (of which Charleston has several), you’ll notice that steeples are the tallest structures as far as the eye can see.
The Natural Side of Charleston
Aside from the palmettos that are ever-present throughout the charming streets of the city, the natural surroundings of Charleston often go unappreciated during quick visits. Be sure to cross the impressive Arthur Ravenal Jr. Bridge and check out the hauntingly beautiful marshland just outside the city. Old shrimping boats are docked by rickety clapboard seafood restaurants, and massive stately homes enjoy their own corners of the marsh. The best way to explore, of course, is on the water.
I met with one of our favorite partners and embarked on a kayak through the waterways, navigating between seagrass, old wharves and an occasional old log that reminded me of an alligator. The marsh is teeming with abundant life, and my private guide proved a great depth of knowledge as he named every bird that sang, explained the tides, and pointed out the aquatic fauna.
You can stay closer to Charleston, like I did, and paddle through Shem Creek or venture out to one of the stunning barrier islands within close reach of the city. We can arrange a private boat to Bulls Island, where you’ll witness bottlenose dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles, alligators and nearly 300 bird species in their natural habitat. Of course, such a day is best ended with a sunset Lowcountry boil: a feast of local shrimp, smoked sausage, corn, potatoes, and onions served up by your own private chef.
Lowcountry Boils to Caviar: Dining in Charleston
From home cooked Lowcountry boils to classy oyster bars, the beauty of Charleston’s dining scene is its variety. Seafood is obviously a mainstay in such a sea-side city, and Southern comfort food is also as good as you’d expect. But you may be pleasantly surprised to find a thriving fine dining scene.
When I stepped foot into Zero George, a historic, 16-room boutique hotel, I immediately felt transported somewhere very special. The bubbling chatter of a fountain, light hum of conversation and smooth sound of Sinatra floated through the air under the courtyard’s twinkling with stringed lights. I was visiting to experience what Forbes called the “coolest reservation in town,” Zero George’s Caviar Bar. Although long heralded as the epitome of high class snacks, caviar seems to be making a fresh resurgence in popular culture.
The menu at Zero George celebrates caviar with a perfectly curated wine and champagne list to enhance the sturgeon eggs. Served in an ornate silver case, the Regiis Ova caviar is the star of the show, supported by a delicious bevy of accouterments: jammy soft boiled eggs, buttery brioche ‘soldiers,’ crisp kettle chips, chives, lemon, and, of course, creme fraiche. My server encouraged me to try a “bump” of caviar on its own before mixing and matching to find my perfect bite. The caviar was both creamy and briny, reminiscent of tasting the sea. Accompanied by my glass of icy-cold champagne and various acidic and salty accompaniments, serenaded by old-fashioned jazz, it was bliss.
Whether you are looking for a specialty fine dining experience like this one, a rooftop with live music, a trendy coffee shop, or the best hole-in-the-wall barbeque, Charleston delivers.
Written by Mary Cate Long, All Roads North Marketing Manager
Let us plan your dream Charleston trip for you– contact us today or check out this Charleston, Savannah and Golden Isles road trip for inspiration.